As I’ve gathered my bearings in the roughly two weeks since I’ve returned to the valley, conversations with a few local entrepreneurs indicate there are some exciting opportunities ahead.
Every businessperson in the valley has long been aware of the Kicking Horse Coffee success story, and it now seems others are looking to create the capacities necessary to emulate that success. Many are beginning to realize that if you can’t compete against larger producers across Canada or around the world, it’s time to play a different game: creating a niche market in which smallness is a strength, not a weakness.
One could argue much of the Columbia Valley’s economic clout lies in the idea that our unique shops and products bring summer visitors seeking not only time in the sun and on the lake, but a chance to purchase products that have a unique connection to Invermere, Radium Hot Springs or other parts of the valley. Dave’s Hot Pepper Jelly, Sophie’s Original canned goods, Arrowhead Brewing products and Glacier Soap are a few examples of local goods that meet this niche.
But there are more ventures brewing, as local businesses and even not-for-profit groups are gearing up plans that involve building facilities to make it not just possible, but even economical to run medium-sized enterprises that are capable of taking the valley-branded products beyond the confines of the Rockies and the Purcell Mountains.
Much of this is still under wraps, of course, but stay tuned this fall as I think we’ll see several valley entrepreneurs take significant steps towards the next level of marketing and distribution. Were there a Dragon’s Den program established solely for the valley, I’d wager the quality of proposals put forth by motivated individuals would result in a pretty high success rate at gaining backers.
Besides, as my co-worker Dan points out in his column also on this page, it’s always convenient to buy cheap mass-produced products, but the lack of attention to detail can be glaringly obvious.